Highly accessible by car and two airports, the ‘Great Northern Peninsula’ is Newfoundland’s largest, most distinctive and most northern geographical feature. At 225 km (140 miles) long and 80 km (50 miles) across at its widest point, it encompasses an area of 17,483 km² (6,750 mi²). Below you will find 12 spectacular things to do on your Northern Peninsula trek.
Speckled across 69 charming, coastal communities, you shall find 16,859 residents that call the Northern Peninsula home. Their warm, welcoming nature and relaxed lifestyles have touched the hearts of countless visitors.
In fact, the vikings first stepped ashore here 1000AD followed by European fisherman in the 1500s. It is a most unique travel destination with countless historical, cultural and ecological sites of interest for you to explore.
The region consists of two main topographic areas, the high plateau of the long range mountains and the low-lying coastal areas.
Known affectionately as ‘The Viking Trail’, it is a vast, spectacular expanse. For this reason alone, our post will focus solely on the peninsula’s most northerly tip.
1. Visit The Life Of A Medical Missionary
Sir Wilfred Thomason Grenfell was a medical missionary to Newfoundland and Labrador.
His life and legacy are proudly on display in St. Anthony both at Grenfell Historic Properties through a gallery of interpretive paneling and displays and at the Grenfell House Museum where Dr. Grenfell, his wife and three children lived.
The Grenfell House was built between 1909 and 1910. Based on a New England design, the architects were ash & sons of Carbonear, Newfoundland.
Originally standing alone on the hill, the house became known as the ‘castle’ with flower beds and vegetable gardens. Now taken over by wildflowers and shaded by trees, it offers you a quiet welcome.
After your visit to Dr. Grenfell’s home, walk the easy tea house trail for a spectacular vista of the surrounding area. It gets windy up here, so an added layer of clothing is always recommended. Sir Grenfell, his wife and other colleagues are buried adjacent to this site, commemorated by memorial plaques.
2. Take An Awe-Inspiring Boat Tour
This 2.5 hour, award-winning whale, iceberg and seabird boat tour with Northland Discovery in St. Anthony is a truly exhilarating Newfoundland experience. On each tour, experienced local naturalists captivate the audience with a live interpretative program.
On your journey, you will go along the northern Atlantic corridor in the heart of ‘ice-berg alley’. The region is also one of the world’s best places for viewing humpback whales and Atlantic white-beaked dolphins.
Also, your excursion will leave you in awe of our bird life as you visit colonies of kittiwakes, guillemots and arctic terns – a bird that has a longer migration than any other creature in the world.
Finally, you will encounter our islands spectacular geography as you visit Newfoundland’s largest sea caves.
3. Have A Feed Of Some Of The Finest Fish & Chips
The Daily Catch Restaurant is a top 10 eatery to get fish and chips in Newfoundland and Labrador.
Offering fresh, traditional cuisine since 2003, their homemade fish and chips batter has been a staple here for years. Their menu also offers many other seafood and non-seafood options including traditional Newfoundland dishes such as fish cakes, fish and brewis and pan fried cod.
The Daily Catch is ideally located on a hill peak over looking the picturesque St. Lunaire Bay. Perfect for watching the majestic icebergs pass by.
4. Take Part In A Viking Settlement Re-Enactment
Experiential travel doesn’t get any finer than a visit to the Norstead Viking Village and Port of Trade. A short distance from the actual UNESCO viking settlement site. Norstead takes history out of the exhibit case and places it in the hands of visitors.
Here you will join costumed interpreters in the dim light of the viking-style chieftain’s hall and listen to mysterious viking tales. You will also step aboard the full-scale replica of the viking ship Snorri and learn how the vikings mastered the north Atlantic.
Experiential opportunities abound including learning how to use a simple notched stick to measure distance by the stars, getting your “runes” told by the wise women and shaping clay into pottery the way the vikings did.
5. Visit The Only Known Viking Settlement In North America
L’anse aux Meadows is the only site of pre-columbian trans-oceanic contact, the earliest known European settlement in the new world. In fact, Leif Erickson and crews of Norse explorers settled here in Newfoundland (or Vinland as they called it) over a thousand years ago.
The archaeological remains at the site were declared a UNESCO world heritage site in 1978 with the discovery of a small cloak pin in 1968 by archaeologists Helge and Anne Stine Ingstad.
Exhibits highlight the viking lifestyle, artifacts and the archaeological discovery of the site. The reconstructions of three Norse buildings are the focal point.
6. Hike The Camel’s Back: A Hidden Hiking Gem
A 2 km (1.2 mile) round trip moderate hike (easy enough for everyone) with some loose rock and steep sections. The trail winds through woods, up over a hill to a picnic area overlooking the coves and then through more woods to reach the higher camel’s back.
It will take you about 1 hour to make the return trip and its well worth it. The trail has spectacular scenery with breathtaking views of the surrounding communities and vast opportunities for viewing whales and icebergs.
Nearing the end of St. Lunaire-Griquet, take a turn at Dark Tickle Junction. As you approach a fork in the road, pull to the right and park your vehicle.
7. Indulge In Delectable Newfoundland Treats
A trip to the Northern Peninsula just wouldn’t be the same without visiting the Dark Tickle Company. Products here are made from hand-picked unique berries (flavours such as bakeapple, partridgeberry, wild blueberry, squashberry and crowberry) that grow on the pristine barrens of Newfoundland.
In June of 2002 the Dark Tickle Company became the first economusee in Newfoundland and Labrador. The economusee concept promotes traditional craft skills using educational tours with museum-like interpretation.
8. Take In A Tour Of The French Shore Interpretation Centre
Housed in a former Grenfell nursing station, this exhibition will take you through the history of the French cod fishery on the northeast coast of the Great Northern Peninsula.
Images and artifacts illustrate the earliest recorded voyages from the early 1500s until their last trips to tend a cemetery in Croque in the 1970s through to today’s outport of Irish and English Newfoundlanders.
9. Visit An Underground Salmon Pool
The trail which you enter the underground salmon pool passes through the Beaver Brook watershed. Beaver Brook is known locally for its ‘underground salmon pool’ and for excellent fishing.
Geologically, limestone bedrock underlay’s the watershed. What makes limestone so distinctive is that as water percolates through the limestone, it dissolves the rock and creates underground channels. The final result is an impressive system of caves and tunnels.
A beautiful walk through the boreal forest brings you to an amazing site: a salmon river emerging from an underground cave.
The salmon pool runs underground through a tunnel formed by erosion through the rock. Fish disappear into the opening and re-appear about 800 metres away where they rest before continuing upstream to spawn.
10. Become Enchanted By The Town Of Englee
This beautifully quaint little town is surrounded by groups of mountains, rugged shoreline and islands off in the distance. Vernacular architecture abounds with several churches and traditional salt box homes.
For the more avid, yet moderately fit traveler, a short strenuous hike along Barr’d Island Trail (0.5 km [0.31 miles], 30 minutes) is highly recommended. The trail ascends 164 wooden steps that scale the steep western side of the island. The trail then proceeds through sections of boreal forest and tuckamore with several lookouts offering spectacular views of Canada Bay and Englee Harbour.
Above all, this extremely scenic hilltop trail is an excellent one for viewing icebergs traveling along the coastline and for taking in the natural marine beauty all around.
11. Have A Viking Feast
A top Trip Advisor eatery, Lightkeepers Seafood Restaurant/Great Viking Feast is a replica of the 1000 year old Leif Erickson’s home at nearby L’anse aux Meadows National Historic Site.
Notably, the ‘Leifsburdir’ as it is called, is the only sod covered restaurant in all of North America. Located in an abandoned light-keepers house. This 100 seat dinner theater has entertained over 60,000 satisfied customers with food, fun and feuds at their ‘althing’ or viking court of law.
Finally, Where To Stay…
12. Live Like A 1940’s Fisherman
The Raleigh Historic Village authentically captures the spirit of Raleigh fishermen during the booming years of the legendary Newfoundland fishery (circa 1940′s – 1950′s).
Situated along rugged ocean scenery, these quaintly red fishing rooms provide rustic bunkhouse accommodations, heated by wood stove and equipped with comfy home-made quilts.
Additionally, a shared kitchen for a ‘mug’ up or ‘yarn’ (a colloquial Newfoundland term for chat) is provided. Outhouses are located on site.
Also, incredible boat tours are offered that will take you along the Burnt Cape Ecological Reserve coastline for a picnic lunch within the huge big oven cave. On the water, you will see how massive cod traps are set and learn how to jig for codfish.
Back on land, you can attend traditional Newfoundland craft classes such as the art of rug hooking. Additional experiential opportunities include mending nets, splitting fish and oar making.
Above all, the recreation of this 1940′s historic fishing village allows you to live and work the quiet, simple life of a traditional fishing family.